Idols are sneaky. They creep in as seemingly good things, often innocent on their own. If not kept in check, though, these seemingly innocent things take over and become objects of worship.
It’s not like we go out seeking to worship idols. We just sort of let it happen. Maybe we’re not worshiping “it” in the traditional sense, but if “it” consumes us or is the source of the most joy, then we’re worshiping “it” in at least some sense.
My most recent bout with idols involved the noble profession of teaching. Who would have thought idols could come from there? Certainly not me, until the truth slapped me in the face and I had to come to terms it.
Three years ago my family moved from the Midwest to Florida. I was teaching middle school at the time. Side note: people say middle school teachers have special powers that allow them to do that job. I 100% agree. I’m not sure what the super power is exactly, but it’s there – it’s in all teachers actually, regardless of grade level.
I loved teaching. It was more than a job for me. It was my identity. It was exciting and terrifying and hard and so incredibly rewarding all at the same time. I assumed that when we moved, I’d go right back into the classroom and pick up right where I left off.
As things got going with the move, Todd and I began to feel very strongly about me being able to be home with the kids. We loved the idea of me having time to build community and be free to jump in to the ministry world however that may look. Personally, I loved the idea of not spending every night grading papers or weekends lesson planning. I ignored those thoughts and began the process of applying for teaching jobs anyway.
Then a strange thing happened. I began to feel uncomfortable going through the application process.
Have you ever ignored a prompting? If you have, and you feel like I do when I ignore one, maybe you’ve had some of these feelings:
- nervousness, uneasiness, nausea
- a million thoughts trying to justify what you want to do verses what you’re being prompted to do
I actually felt nausea going through the application process! That was confusing to me. Teaching is what I do, I thought. It’s who I am, I thought. Why in the world would I feel uneasy about it after doing it for 17 years?
Ultimately, I didn’t go through with getting a teaching job because two things happened that were just what I needed the time.
First, my husband asked me a simple question: “How much are you really seeking God on this? If it really is a struggle for you, maybe you should try praying about it.” His first go to is always prayer. He’s a doer (like me), so praying first isn’t always easy. But he does it. I was ashamed that I hadn’t really made the issue a point of prayer as much as I should have. So, I began to pray about it. Like really pray about it.
God began to reveal to me that although I really loved being in the classroom, it came with some unintended idols. I approached my job with more energy and attention than any other thing in my life. I loved all the noble things about teaching, of course, but as I dug deeper, I realized that I loved the spotlight that came with it too (recognition). I loved the popularity (attention). I loved that I was a leader (control, authority). I loved the extra income it afforded my family (status). I was putting the pursuit of those things above what truly mattered.
Second, I met an incredible woman named Brooke. We were working on a church project together and I spilled my guts about the struggle of not teaching and staying home instead. That’s really unlike me. I’m not a gut-spiller.
I remember it like it was yesterday. We were sitting on the floor at church working. She was listening to me share my heart and then she stopped working, looked at me and said “Amanda, your contribution to your family doesn’t have to be financial in order to be incredibly valuable.” She went on to tell me about how she worked outside the home and then decided it was time to stay home with kids. It was a drastic change for her and she really had to come to terms with a very different life. A life that she wouldn’t change now for anything.
I know what you’re thinking. Duh, Amanda.
My husband says I’m one of the most intelligent people he knows. Sometimes I surprise myself with how obtuse I can be.
Idols are items of our own creation. We make them. We fall in love with them. They push out what really deserves our worship. My desire for recognition, control, and status had become idols. I’m not saying those desires are all bad, but when they become temples of worship, they have to be torn down. This hard-to-accept lesson on idols is just what I needed to get me back on track to becoming the person God created me to be. And that person is going to work hard to be aware of what I’m allowing to sneak in and take the spot that’s reserved only for Him.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with idols. I’m curious, what are yours?